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Quit Your Resolutions Before They Fail (Then Do This Instead)

I’ve got to tell you, this time of year is bugging me. I used to think of it as productive. There’s distance from the year that came before.  We’ve settled into the rhythm of life – motivated by fresh career-life resolutions and plenty of time to achieve them.

Except now I coach committed careerists who have hit a crossroads of some sort.  Sometimes this is a tipping point they didn’t choose such as redundancy. Others want to leave work they’re successful at but feel unfulfilled doing – either to make a side-hustle they’re passionate about their ‘main programme’, or because they’re just plain stuck. Some come to coaching for a confidence upgrade to match newly elevated leadership positions and build a thriving team.

None of which is linear.  Or wholly-focused on the outcomes themselves.  All of which requires self-reflection and agile thinking.

With this time of year no longer a focus group of one, it’s hitting me that the same goals so strongly driving action before, need tweaking to stay resonant now.

Which is fine by the way. And smooth when you have support to pivot. Because agility is always better than rigidly sticking to plans that don’t feel right. It’s what keeps clients in action aligned with what matters most. The ultimate goal, after all.

But it’s less than helpful being bombarded with messages about ‘failing by February’. The most recent I’ve seen (by mid-January) puts the bad news for good intentions at a damning 80%.

I can believe it actually.  But pursuing any outcome because we stated we would in a resolution is resilience gone wrong.

So please quit your career-life resolutions fast so you don’t get contaminated by the February fails. Then do this instead. 


Simply make tweaks to your career-life intention until it feels better aligned.  Then go again. Taking small steps towards your vision and checking in again.  Which may not sound inspirational, but will keep you moving so you get to the right place.

Often, having empowered my clients to make a tweak, that is quickly called the easy part.  Because if your stated goal is feeling somehow wrong, what feels better is nearby. That’s how you know. And why you’re well-placed to let the pockets of resistance you’ve been feeling steer you in the right direction as you tweak the goal. Or how you’re making it happen.

But despite new-and-improved intentions feeling ‘just right’, I am noticing again and again that what slows people down is an acceptance of this agile thinking.

Please know this: to tweak is not to fix to something that was broken. You don’t need to beat yourself up for the time spent going down the ‘wrong’ path. It provided input you needed. And this was not a fail – the February type, or any other.

It was the necessary test phase of a Test-&-Tweak action plan. Because at times we need to hit the sides, so we can push off again, with more force than before. The Test-&-Tweak allows you to respond to the change you are making happen, adjusting your settings as you discover what will see you succeed.

What if this kind of zig-zag approach was recognised as a valid part of dynamic change?  You wouldn’t pause for recriminations. You’d be too busy optimising your plans according to what you were learning.

True Story

Asked about the most valuable take-out from a session recently, one client explained that this feeling of something ‘not working’, would have seen him abort all efforts if he was in it on his own. As it often had in the past. With coaching, that’s not possible but tapping into the tweak with my support, had felt simpler than he could compute and it was haunting him.  Despite recognising what the wrongness was telling him and using that to make evidence-based decisions about what would work better. Despite getting back into action with more energy than before.

Some empowerment was needed to avoid getting stuck ruminating.  Here’s the twin-track reframe you need to adopt the test-&-tweak mindset. With conviction. Before February.

  • No need to feel tentative. The test-&-tweak trend is not a new one.  Need convincing?
    • Opticians have you wear different lenses asking ‘which feels better?’ as part of refining your prescription needs. Meet A/B Testing. And the acceptance of checking back later – because these things evolve with time.
    • The gold standard in science has always been to replicate findings and review, critically, to build on earlier theories.Because finding something to be wrong (or not the full picture) is precisely what it takes to move knowledge ever forwards.
    • Silicon Valley leads the way in evidence-meets-marketing with health brands (think Fitbit, MyFitnessPal) making millions by using our health metrics to direct new product development.
    • Leading brands in other lanes are doing ever more customised test & tweaks too. Nestle recently launched a Wellness Ambassador, providing customers with personalised nutritional advice and specially formulated vitamin supplements based on their dietary habits, DNA and blood test results.
  • No need to share each micro-step on social media. Not everyone will get the zig-zag effect of your experience-based, test & tweak but they will feel comfortable to say so – undermining your positive energy.
    • Remember agile thinking means you won’t knowmore until you test your current thinking out. Then respond to that.
    • You alone will be qualified to make the right choices. Experience over opinions. Using real-life evidence. Like a scientist.
    • As Marti Konstant writes in her refreshingly instructional book, Activate Your Agile Career, ‘don’t be afraid to fail, but don’t fail the same way twice’.

So, with January well underway, it’s time to ditch your resolutions and embrace the Test-&-Tweak experimental approach to optimising your career-life vision instead. 

Walking The Talk (with your help)

I’m walking the talk on the Test-&-Tweak approach this year. I’ve asked my own audience for their input at this formative time for my coaching business. I will always want to work 121 with a small rosta of high-end clients but will spend the year testing (and tweaking) an inventory of other options designed in response to wider wants and needs.

The vision?  That my offering becomes populated with what my community value, and I support more people who feel stuck at a crossroads than I can see 1:1.

I’m ready to test like a scientist and fail often (not the same way twice!) but need your help. If you are interested to shape what I try next, or know what offering you wish existed, please take part in this short survey by clicking here. With gratitude, Helen 

P.S. If you think your friends would like this too, i’d love you to share it.  Thanks.  Warmly, Helen

Helen Hanison

Helen Hanison is the only executive coach bringing a unique blend of marketing savvy and commercial edges to coaching that draws on her background in psychology. She helps seasoned professionals who are stuck at a career crossroads to make a plan aligning work they love with a life they want to lead.

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